ELEVEN donkeys and 18 Shetland ponies seized in an RSPCA search are to be returned to the farm they were taken from.

District Judge Sandeep Kainth today ruled at Oxford Magistrates Court the animals should be returned to Spindle farm, Chalk Lane, Hyde Heath after they were seized following an RSPCA investigation into allegations of animal cruelty.

The farm's owner, James Gray, had made a formal application to have the animals returned.

But the judge also ruled that around 80 horses that were removed from the farm at the same time should be sold. Currently the horses are in the care of the RSPCA at various rescue centres, but district Judge Kainth said they must be sold at a market in Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire, next month.

A vet who examined the horses in January told the court he was so concerned for their welfare he recommended they should be removed from the farm.

But he added the donkeys and ponies appeared to be in a "good condition."

Judge Kainth said: " These donkeys were never in any danger. They are to be returned forthwith."


Five people today pleaded not guilty to 12 charges of animal cruelty. James Gray, 44, Julie Gray, 40, Jodie Gray, 25, Cordelia Gray, 19, all of Spindle farm, Chalk Lane, pleaded not guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to protected animals between December 21 2007 and January 4 this year.

A teenager who can not be named for legal reasons also pleaded not guilty to the charges. After pleading not guilty to the charges they were granted unconditional bail. They are to re-appear at Oxford Magistrates court on April 28 for a pre-trial review.